Kindle as a Revision Tool

I finally picked up an eReader, specifically a Kindle 3 WiFi. 3G would undoubtedly be useful if I were wont to leave my house without a court order, so I’ll save the $50 delta for now. I think the Pearl eInk panels are finally ready for prime time; the older screens on the Nook and Kindle 2 look a bit yellowed and faded, even under harsh store lighting. Please note that at home my Kindle 3 looks a little washed as well. Stores are extremely bright. It’s one reason that TVs are so freaking clipped at the top end of the brightness scale; they have to compete with an army of fluorescence. But I digress.

There were a few things that made me finally break down and get one of these. First, I have a lot of free ebooks already, and I really really hate long reads on an LCD, no matter how good the backlight. Second, I’m pretty sure my addiction to reading on LCDs is doing my insomnia no favors. Third, and this is most important, I am encountering severe problems trying to revise something as simple as a 7000 word short.

A psychological crutch as an excuse to buy a new toy? Sounds good to me.

I did consider the Sony PRS-series of eReaders. They also use Pearl tech, so their screens look pretty decent. However, the cheap one lacks wireless, the expensive one is pretty big, and they’re both too expensive. The thing I liked about them from a markup standpoint is their touchscreens and stylus, so you can just write on the document as you go (on the Kindle you have to take little notes with a teeny tiny keyboard). The thing that finally turned me off was that they just didn’t look quite as good for straight reading as the Kindle 3, and they’re made by Sony. In a year I’m sure any Sony I owned would break down and I would get no support at all, even if the model was still listed on their website. Ask Shad about his adventures trying to get drivers for my old Sony CD-R, or ask any Sony rep for the frequency response curve of any of their prosumer microphones, and you’ll get a good picture of what bad tech support looks like.

So here’s the procedure I used:

  • Open the document (Word 97-2003 format).
  • Save as a filtered HTML. Note the filtered part. This gets rid of all the little MS Word extras that will screw up your conversion.
  • Download Calibre, configure it for Kindle, and add the filtered HTML version to your library.
  • Attach your Kindle via USB — several times if you need to, until Calibre recognizes it (mutter) — and upload the filtered HTML to the device. Calibre autoconverts it to MOBI format.
  • Unplug the Kindle and go.

The nice thing about reading the finished product on the Kindle is that you get a better feel for what the product looks like in published format. This is good, as dread should fill you at every bad phrase and gremlin typo you encounter. For me it’s also a brainspace shift. I can look at the piece more like an alpha/beta reader instead of a writer/editor. In fact, the first time I worked through the short on the Kindle I immediately saw a structural flaw that someone in a writing group had pointed out, but which I couldn’t quite get my head around until I saw it as a consumer. Weird.

So once I marked it up with all my little nigh-invisible notes (including such clear phrases as, “cut 2 paras mv up before line break for cohesion” and, “period”), I stood the Kindle up on my desk and referred to it as I typed in the corrections on the original Word document.

It’s crutchy maybe, but I liken it to Michael Stackpole’s advice to do all your editing on paper instead of at the keyboard. I just didn’t feel like burning so much toner.

PS: Yes I know you can just mail a Word 2003 document to your free Kindle address and get it autoconverted. I just like to keep things in-house.

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